This has got me thinking a lot about control, and fear of the unknown. I love control, and have a deep fear of the unknown. I have been ever so slowly (over years), inching toward letting go of one, and embracing the other. And damn, it has been a journey.
“I’m afraid of the Dark. You, who walk so cheerfully, whistling your way, stand still for five minutes. Stand still in the Dark in a field or down a track. It’s then you know you’re there on sufferance. The Dark only lets you take one step at a time. Step and the Dark closes round your back. In front, there is no space for you until you take it. Darkness is absolute. Walking in the dark is like swimming under water except you can’t come up for air.”
~Jeanette Winterson, The Passion
I read The Passion on the recommendation of a friend sometime in my early twenties. This passage stood out and has never left me. I am one who refuses to be held down, and I see the dark as a symbol and challenge I must overcome. I attack it with a fear so deep it rages, but what follows is spectacular.
Late summer, 2014
It’s a classmate’s birthday and the party invite states a 4pm start with a 9pm finish. It’s Sunday of a long week, I haven’t left my house all day, and I only partially care that I think I should be voted ‘most likely to cancel’ by my peers.
I am gradually beginning to own and understand my introverted nature that until the age of the internet, I did not realize was a legitimate thing.
Anyway, I’m great with spontaneity because it’s a time when everyone knows there is a fifty-fifty chance of success, which takes the pressure off. I feel bad about canceling plans, ignoring invitations, not showing up or avoiding the phone, but not bad enough to stop doing it. I pay for it through a harsh inner dialogue though. I still haven’t embraced my true nature, because it seems to be in stark contrast to everyone around me. I can push through a lot but to my great annoyance, I cannot override the introvert.
At 8pm I look out the window to see the light in the clear summer sky begin to soften, and I imagine a beautiful sunset along the river. I don’t want to be known as the one everyone expects to bail, and the thought, along with the sunset, has me urgently carrying my bike down the steps and into the street.
The long meandering river path is busy with couples and families enjoying the slow descent of the day, and I feel revived by having motivated myself out of the house. By the time I arrive at the party, everyone has already departed and the only thing left to do is clean up the mess. So my friend and I have a private visit as we scrape plates of half eaten birthday cake into the garbage and clean up the dishes. We are both equally pleased and surprised by my arrival. Satisfied with our visit, I prepare to return to my nest.
It’s dark now, and I realize my rear light is dead. It’s a 50 minute bike ride home and I need to decide between one of two unappealing routes. I would prefer to go through the city where traffic and street lights give me the illusion of safety, but without the light, I’m not guaranteed to be seen from behind.
My other option is the way I came. Along the winding trail of the river. A moonless night and no traffic lights or overhead lamps to illuminate the path, I would have to rely solely on my LED bike light for guidance.
I am afraid to get hit by a car on the street, but more afraid of what lurks in the dark along the river. I decide that despite my fear, the river is the safer option.
Adrenaline has me a bit shaky and I am pedaling fast to get it over with. I quickly transition from wanting to get home as quick as possible, to fully embracing the moment because I suddenly realize I‘m having quite a lot of fun.
The light on my bike is strong enough to illuminate no more than three feet ahead. The curves are coming quick and I see them with barely enough time to stay on course, and each time I turn my handlebars to round a corner, the trail disappears from sight while my lamp lights up the grass beyond the curve. The challenge delivers me into the moment, leaving my anxiety back at the birthday party I didn’t attend. In the absence of sight, there are dips in the trail that my body takes in well before my mind, and the entire experience is invigorating. I pass a few sets of glowing eyes but I’m moving so quickly, they are behind me before I can identify a threat.
I make it home in record time, with the realization that it’s an illusion to think I can ever see more than a few feet ahead of where I stand at any given moment. Each experience holds a potential waiting to be discovered, and I don’t want to miss a thing.